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St. Joseph recognized as good place to start a small business
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A recent report ranks St. Joseph 17th as one of “The Best Small Cities to Start a Small Business.”

“I think to be ranked in the top 20 across the U.S. for places to start small businesses is an incredible attribute for St. Joseph,” said Natalie Redmond, vice president of membership for the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce, of the report conducted by Go.Verizon.com. “If you looked at some of the comments from the folks who did the ranking, they said things like, ‘These cities in the top 20 should be an inspiration for other cities across the country on how to make an environment conducive for small businesses.’”

The Go.Verizon.com study gathered and examined data from nearly 300 cities across the country that had populations between 50,000 and 75,000. Factors taken into account when ranking the cities included the education level of the workforce, commuting, income per capita, broadband access, ability to receive business loans and tax scores.

In what was an up-and-down year for small businesses, the St. Joseph community’s ability to band together was something exemplified by the city’s resiliency, according to Redmond.

“The community came together and supported small business like nothing I’ve ever seen and I’m really proud of St. Joe,” Redmond said.

Having to shift and pivot in different directions during the pandemic helped make businesses stronger — particularly during a time when many businesses dealt with circumstances out of their control.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kelsey Brown, co-owner of Painted Beauty and now Painted Beauty Boutique at 708 S. Woodbine Road, recalled the difficulties the business faced.

Brown said the three women who run the salon were out of work for almost eight weeks at one point in 2020. She said because of the loyalty of their clientele, she feels the business didn’t skip much of a beat when it reopened.

“It feels like it’s been forever ago since we did all that. It was hard,” Brown said. “Luckily, we have very loyal hair girls. They waited for us and we got busy when we opened back. It paid off after being closed for two months.”

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Order on government workers won't disrupt local agencies
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Within the next week, everyone who holds a job by or through a Missouri state agency must return to the office for in-person work, but local educators are already there for the most part.

Gov. Mike Parson announced earlier this month that by Monday, May 17, all state buildings must be open and accessible to the public during normal business hours, and related employees must be on duty at designated sites. This includes all agencies subject to the jurisdiction of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Missouri of Higher Education and Workforce Development. Locally, examples include Missouri Western State University, Northwest Missouri State University and the St. Joseph School District, among several others. COVID-19 screening and testing protocols, with associated quarantine periods in cases of a positive test or confirmed contact with an infected person, are to remain in place.

“With COVID-19 vaccines now readily available across the state and virus activity at its lowest levels since (the) early days of the pandemic, we are confident that it is safe to return to pre-COVID-19 work settings and schedules,” Parson said.

Kent Heier, a spokesperson for Missouri Western, said the university is reviewing the decision and the extent to which it will affect public higher education in general remains to be determined.

“The directive would have little practical effect on our campus because with some limited exceptions for those in special circumstances, our employees have been working on campus and our offices have been open for several months,” Heier said.

Eileen Houston-Stewart, spokesperson for the St. Joseph School District, and Mark Hornickel, spokesperson for Northwest Missouri State, offered similar assessments: As part of their own pre-established planning, local public educators have arranged for in-person services for some time now. Each of the three agencies advises people to follow practices such as frequent handwashing and maintenance of social distancing while indoors. All three also require face coverings while indoors. Parson’s order does not affect any of these concerns.

Over the course of the school year, leaders in these agencies have increasingly become of one mind in that entirely remote operations are not what they are for, and were only to be continued as long as was necessary during the pandemic.

Nevertheless, the school district will retain its all-online Noyes Virtual Academy, based at the former elementary school at 1415 N. 26th St. As they did before, both area universities will continue to offer several online classes and degrees. For all of these programs, while the staff is able to work from home as needed, the norm is to conduct coursework from the office.

Asked Monday for its own input, DESE referred a reporter to Parson’s statement. The Higher Education department did not respond.

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Federal program helps local pharmacies keep insulin prices manageable
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As the cost of insulin increases across the country, officials with the Missouri Pharmacy Association say that distributors are to blame for the rise.

Ron Fitzwater, Chief Executive Officer for the Missouri Pharmacy Association, said prices increases are occurring for many drugs across the state — specifically insulin — due to drug distributors.

“I think what we find is it’s another symptom of the middlemen having placed themselves between manufacturers and patients and they are just wreaking havoc on our health care system, “ Fitzwater said.

Fitzwater said states throughout the Midwest — including Missouri — are looking at options to fight these high costs through legislative measures. He said oftentimes priority placing requires rebates, which can drive up prices.

“I think addressing the rebate issue federally would help. We’re trying to address it in a very narrow piece just to get some language into Missouri law to begin looking at it, but the rebate piece is huge,” Fitzwater said.

Locally, Rogers Pharmacy and Northwest Health Services Pharmacy aren’t seeing as high of prices for insulin due to the federal 340B Drug Pricing Program. The program allows for pricing options to be more affordable for community healthcare systems.

“We’re kind of an exception to the rule. We are a contracted 340B pharmacy, which means we can offer insulin and other expensive items at a greatly affordable price,” Rex Robinson, Rogers Pharmacist said.

Robinson said despite not having as big of an issue with prices at Rogers, he knows there are some definite flaws to the supply chain.

“The supply chain is a huge issue. Insulin has gone up like 350% over the last 10 to 15 years, and where that money is going is unsure. The manufacturer claims that they’re not raising it that much. So that would lead to the middlemen, I know it is not coming from the pharmacies, because I’m from that end,” Robinson said.

Miranda Phillips, Northwest Health Pharmacy director said pricing would be a huge issue for their customers if the 340B was not in place.

“If that went away, a good amount of our patients would have a lot of trouble paying for the medications, and unfortunately a lot of them might just go off of it or try to extend it or not get it some months because they can’t afford it,” Phillips said.